When Harry asked Henry for a dance
By: Pragyan Mohanty
From far-flung farmhouses and shady parks, gay galas have moved into chic clubs. Taking up the premier party night slots, queer clubbing now means big moolah bigger than the 'regular' party scene. But even as club owners are raking huge money from gay chic, they keep it hush hush
The dramatic makeup complemented her backless halter top and voluminous printed skirt. The twenty-something PYT ran her fingers through her ironed hair and boys standing at a distance wouldn't take their eyes off her. But far from basking in their attention, the girl wouldn't even look at them for she was waiting for her partner a striking girl as old as her who stepped out of a car dressed in a bloused top and a pair of denims.
Unfazed by the prying eyes, the lissome lesbian pair walked hand-in-hand towards the entrance of the pink paradise of Delhi Polka. A hip nightclub tucked in the swish Kailash Colony Market in South Delhi, Polka hosts gay and lesbian bashes on Saturdays.
With the strobe lights and disco balls gleaming, the DJ spinning retro funk and pints of beer making rounds the ambience at Polka is just as it is at any trendy nightspot across the country. The difference creeps in only on Saturdays when the couples curling up in the dim-lit corners or those swaying on the dance floor are
only guys-who-love-guys and girls-who-love-girls.
And this isn't the only destination for these party hearty people. Pegs 'n' Pints a dainty disco at the capital's bureaucratic bastion Chanakyapuri observes Tuesdays as gay gala. An all-men affair, PnP has diplomats, expats, members of fash frat thronging in for their share of 'man' moment. This apart, a couple of clubs in South Delhi and Noida, too, host soirees for queers.
Things are also hotting up on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) party scene in Mumbai. Along with the popular Gay Bombay bashes, there are also other new-generation organisations that are making sure that the community unwinds in style. Salvation Star, an event management company that manages parties for the queers, promises 'fabulous parties, a global music scene and rocking celebrations.' Salvation Star organises parties at elite clubs in Delhi and Mumbai, with an entry charge of Rs 1,100, redeemable against unlimited food and drink, and a chance to meet someone new.
Paisa bolta hai
Call it the liberation of the non-heterosexuals or urban India's growing acceptance for the members of the queer community, or simply the business revenue that this 'last great minority' brings with itself, these nightspots slot LGBT parties on important days like Friday and Saturday.
From remote farmhouses to plush clubs, the partying scene for queers has undergone a significant change.
Located in busy market areas, these nightlife spots have regular clubbing happening all through the week and queer parties on slated days. Delhi-based Abodh, who's a regular at many such bashes, says, "No matter how much closet bound we are in the society, when it comes to merriment, we simply live it up. These bashes aren't just about unwinding; they are the avenues where one meets new people. New associations are built over discussions as diverse as fashion, movies, or even recession."
Working with an IT firm, Abodh discovered his sexual leanings in his early twenties. Many of his straight friends accompany him to these parties. "Our parties are wacky and fun, so many straight clubbers end up hanging out with us." Star and Rayo, a straight couple from Mumbai, second this view. The pair attends most of the Salvation Star parties. "Homosexuals are bright and friendly bunch. We love it here," smiles Star. The setting works for a couple since no one is trying to distract or disturb them. "It's pure fun with good music," she says.
So with a host of straight clubbers joining the revelry, the business is booming. Even as most of these parties are still word-of-mouth things and aren't advertised overtly, they end up generating more revenue as compared to rest of the clubbing days a fact certified by most of the club owners and party organisers. "The business on Saturdays, the Boyzone Nights, is huge as compared to the other days. The number of people wanting to enter the club on this day is massive," says Polka's manager.
"Clubs are surely minting good money from gay gala. Even though farmhouse parties are funner, pubs have emerged as a convenient option," informs Amrish (name changed), an MNC employee who doubles up as an organiser for queer get-togethers in Delhi. Associated with the LGBT social scene in the city for over 10 years, Amrish cites the fitting arrangements of night clubs and the infamous Pushkin Chandra murder case (see box) as the primary reasons for the reduced stature of farmhouses as queer party venues. "The fear of being harassed by cops and security issues restrict people from holding parties here," he tells. Pubs and discothques with their cohesive setup, proper licenses and stringent security keep things in order.
"We have rarely provided police protection to any of these clubs on such special nights. They usually have their bouncers and security personnel taking charge. When it comes to such parties, there are a very few incidents of brawls reported to cops," informs a senior police officer from the Greater Kailash area in Delhi.
Though a money spinner, the concept hasn't received a whole-hearted acceptance. "Club owners are still wary about the hostile response that such 'unconventional' meetings would result in," says Amrish. Be it the Saturday soiree at Polka and Tuesday party at PnP in Delhi, or the Salvation Star shindigs in Mumbai, the details of the events are circulated within the community.
While cities like Mumbai and Delhi still have the community finding out ways for savouring its share of action, Bangalore in spite of hosting two Pride Parades is still struggling with the LGBT party culture. When it comes to gay hangouts in the city, many believe there aren't specific pubs and lounges. Areas around Brigade Road, Church Street and St Marks Road are considered to be the regular meeting points for homosexuals. They like to meet in these places because of the perceived anonymity. "Our society is such, where the division between the genders is still not all that coherent, and hence the grey area exists," explains L Romal M Singh, a gay freelance journalist from Bangalore. "The cynicism could partly be because homosexuality isn't still legalised in India and partly because it is still a taboo topic," Amrish opines.
So even as these hip-and-happening queer parties mean cool clubbing experience and big moolah, it's the bigger fear of being singled out that dominates the minds of the bars barons at times that of the community too.
As Delhi-based in-the-closet lesbian, Sumedha, sums it up, "Sure, we are the money-makers, but we aren't a 'straight' way of doing so."
With inputs from Sumana Jayanth in Bangalore, Prawesh Lama in Delhi, Aastha Atray Banan in Mumbai and Debarati Palit in Pune
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